August242013

Day 97 and The Last Post

Alright guys, this was it. My final day in Portland for the summer of 2013, or more like half day as we left about noon. What does one do for the final day in Portland? There were a million possiblities, but I think I did Portland right by:

1. Shopping at the Saturday Farmer’s Market and buying some Maine blueberries. I think Dad was impressed with the farmer’s market and the variety of the produce. I was a usual blown away by the colors.

2. Eating at the Holy Donut. I got my ginger glazed sweet potato flavor that I wanted to try. For mom I chose the dark chocolate sea salt caramel and dad tried the old fashioned and strawberry. My favorite remains the dark chocolate one and mom got it right fresh out of the oven like last time. The sweet potato one was good and I could really taste the ginger glaze. Otherwise I couldn’t distinguish the difference between the plain donut and the sweet potato kind. Maybe a little sweeter. Dad’s old fashioned was good, and denser because of the potato.

Shortly after it was packing up and hitting the road for school and Massachusetts. As I write, I am back at school, my parents have just left and I’m feeling a little sad. Summer is over, I’m a senior and I won’t be returning to Maine next summer. On top of that, I found out that Kirsten’s cat passed away and she sent me a picture of me and her cat. So while the day started out great, it’s been a bit of a bittersweet one, as endings generally are.

I didn’t feel terribly sad about leaving Portland behind, although maybe it will sink in tomorrow when I wake up in a room rather than a lovely apartment that let in so much sunlight…

This is also, the Final Post that my blog Vacationland will be seeing, and although I said the same thing last year, it really will be the last post of this blog. Going into my senior year of undergrad means that I am very shortly to be expected to have a Real Job and live in Real Life. Thus, the loveliness of being young and carefree and working-for-free-and-not-really-minding-because-it-gives-you-experience days are just about gone.

I thank all my followers for showing interest in this and certainly fed my ego. But really it’s been a trip and I’ll forever have wonderful memories from this summer and the one before it. There really is nothing like a summer in Maine.

8PM

Kennebunkport

8PM
Portland Headlight, Cape Elizabeth

Portland Headlight, Cape Elizabeth

August232013

Day 96

This may have been the best day of the summer, only because it was so quintessentially Maine and perfect. The weather, the food, the scenery and the best part was that it felt like forever. When they say to stop and smell the roses, they meant days like today.

We set off to see Portland Headlight in Cape Elizabeth, which is apparently the most photographed lighthouse in the country. And when you see it, it is the thing that immediately comes to mind when you think of “Maine” or “lighthouse.”Seeing this lighthouse was on my bucket list for Maine and we really couldn’t have picked a better day. It was less humid than yesterday, there was a breeze, I was wearing my new dress from L.L Bean and everything felt perfect. 

The lighthouse is located in this nice park area, so we had plenty of places to roam and find the best spot for pictures. I probably took at least 20 or 30 of the lighthouse alone, so it’s a good thing for digital. In the park there were some kids flying kites and we saw a wedding party taking pictures. There was also some kind of gathering with some pretty terrible singers, but we had a good laugh at them.

The other great thing about today was that I got to use my Polaroid. I had my mind exactly how this picture was going to turn out and I manage to get it! The first picture I tied to take turned out way too overexposed but the second it just so…well, hipster I guess. But it’s just how I imagined it and I’m so proud of myself. After having that image in my head for some time, I’m glad I was able to achieve it.

The other reason for going to the lighthouse was to try out the Bite into Maine food truck. This was my first food truck experience in Maine. The sandwich, sitting in the shade, being with my parents, a view of the lighthouse; life can’t get much better than that. My parents got their lobster rolls take two. I also tried their potato salad, which was interesting. It was a little sweet and really just potatoes, no egg or relish or anything. It wasn’t overly mayonnaised though and light. My parents weren’t a big fan, but I didn’t mind it too much.

After Cape Elizabeth we thought about going down to Kittery, but I thought that would be a bit too far since it’s almost an hour away. Mom came up with the idea of Kennebunk, which I had mentioned to her. This was a perfect idea since they also wanted to try the best lobster roll in the US and it was much closer. Two lobster rolls in one day was no problem for Mom.

The traffic was pretty terrible when we got in but it was just around a late rush hour. Finding parking was tricky, but on the plus side, we got to drive through Kennebunk/Kennebunkport and dive along the beach. Luckily we scored a spot without too much looping around and explored the shops. There were quite a few cool ones. I think the best about Maine shopping is the commitment to Maine artists, so a lot of the stuff for sales are unique and local, not just the usual tourist junk. We found this cool sweater, but I didn’t really want to get it since it would be weird to wear clothes advertising a town I know people from. Like hey, I was a tourist in your town. I don’t think I’d hear the end of it.

We weren’t quite hungry yet, so we went down the road to check out a second lighthouse in Cape Porpoise. It ended up being a little far away for good pictures, but we did get to see some lobster traps and just enjoy the weather by the water.

Mom got the famous lobster roll for dinner and Dad got fried clams since he doesn’t share Mom’s endless stomach for lobster. See my lobster roll round up for the verdicts. The neat thing was that we also got a coupon for some ice cream, so we were almost obligated for dessert, not that I was complaining.

Ice cream is by far my favorite way to end the day so it was with great satisfaction to head on home my belly full of ice cream and my camera filled with pictures of lighthouses.

10PM

Top: Bite Into Maine

Middle: The Clam Shack

Bottom: Bob’s Clam Hut

10PM

Lobster Roll Round-Up

Disclaimer: I understand that there are some real lobster roll aficionados out there, who might find this list offensive (if lobster roll aficionados actually read this lowly blog and I see no reason why they would) but please, this is one person’s opinion.

I was not the one doing this taste-testing. I’m 99% sure I have a shellfish allergy, so that would have been no fun for me, but my parents, particularly my mom, are big lobster fans. So being in Maine during the summer was like the lobster lottery for them. We kind of do this thing where when we visit a place that is well known for some kind of food, we will try as many varieties as possible to compare. Maryland and blue crab or Brussels and frites and waffles, for example. Here’s how my mom ranks her lobster roll adventures.

1. Bite Into Maine: Portland
This food truck offers lobster rolls six different ways. My parents tried the picnic style (coleslaw, celery salt and hot butter) and the Connecticut style (just hot butter).

My mother says this was the best for her because the lobster was fresh and she liked that the meat was cold. The bread was also pretty decent she thought. All in all, this won out over the others because it had the best combo of bread and lobster.

On a side note, their “MTB” mozzarella, tomato basil sandwich was pretty darn good too. The ciabatta roll it was served on was excellent.

2. Corsican: Freeport
I don’t think this place makes any of the lists of best lobster rolls in Maine, but this ranks #2 for Mom solely because of the bread. She says if it were just about the lobster, this one was definitely not the same as the others (still good though) but the roll elevated it.

We asked the waitress about the roll afterwards and she said they made it fresh and in house so most likely that is why it was so good. Mom says it was light and buttery which complemented the lobster. In terms of the mean, the lobster was good but it wasn’t cut up, just one big lump and she preferred her lobster cut.

3. The Clam Shack: Kennebunk
The Clam Shack has been ranked for having the #1 lobster roll in the nation for the last two years so expectations were high. They didn’t disappoint and a pound of lobster meat was hard to beat. The amount of mayo was good so it didn’t overpower the lobster meat. It was once again though, the bread that was the deciding factor.

She was disappointed because it was just served on a hamburger bun. When she orders a lobster roll she wants a roll. This was no store bought bun by any means, but it wasn’t anything special either.

My side note here was that their batter for their fish sandwich was great. The fish was meaty and moist and the batter wasn’t too heavy. It was also served on the hamburger bun so I can attest that the bread wasn’t anything special.

3. Bob’s Clam Hut: Kittery (visited in 2012)
We visited this last summer but I thought since it is also in the lobster roll rankings it could be included.

Like the Clam Shack, this had some great meat, but the bread wasn’t up to Mom’s standards. A hot dog bun didn’t cut it for her and she remembers not even bothering to eat the bun.

There it is, the round up of Maine lobster rolls according to my mother and since mother knows best…well, I won’t go that far. The roll encasing the lobster meat was by far the deciding factor in deciding her rankings. Lobster meat is obviously important, but since all the “best” places get their meat fresh from the Maine waters, there has to be something that makes them different from each other.

Her version of the best lobster roll: Combining the quantity of the Clam Shack with the cold chopped up style of Bite into Maine in the roll from Corsican.

9PM
Giant Bean Boot in Freeport

Giant Bean Boot in Freeport

August222013

Day 94 and 95

My days in Portland continue to dwindle away very quickly. Yesterday was my last day with Kirsten and at the office. We worked for about half a day and then went off to lunch. Mostly I wrapped up some stuff for the grant write up and sent off stuff to Kirsten so she would have it on file for herself.

Lunch was Mikayi, a sushi/ramen place down the road. We had sushi, which was delicious!

My parents came in the later afternoon so I had time to pack up most of my stuff. I called Kirsten to invite her to dinner and we went to El Rayo, a Latin American/Mexican restaurant. The wait was pretty long, but we sat outside, ate some chips and guac and enjoyed the beautiful weather. One of Kirsten’s friends describe August as the “Sunday of summer,” which we agreed was the absolutely best way to describe it. There was live Cuban music, which made it a bit tricky to have a conversation, but was perfect for the setting and the weather. There were quite a few people up and dancing too and reminded me of my friend at school who teaches everyone to salsa!

Dinner was great, in my opinion. We all opted for variations of fish—fish tacos, fish burritos and for myself a fish rice and bean bowl. The chipotle mayo was pretty great and fresh. We saw someone connected with IYN too, so he had the pleasure of meeting my parents briefly as well. 

It was quite sad to see Kirsten for the last time too, because this time I know I won’t be returning next summer. Hopefully she will be at school in October though so I will get to see her then. I’m so happy to have met her, gotten to live in Portland for two amazing summers and worked on such an innovative and groundbreaking project.

Today we went to Freeport, but luckily Mom didn’t go crazy like I feared. It was actually a pretty tame shopping experience. First stop was L.L. Bean and Mom found the rugs that she wanted. We stopped in the retail and I found a cute dress on sale. I probably won’t be able to wear it too much longer this year as the weather gets colder, but it will be nice for the spring and gasp, graduation!

We had ourselves a whoopie pie from this place that has been featured on Oprah. We also went to this cool bread bakery. Everything seemed good, but we opted not for bread, but a muffin or “bread pudding” as they called it.

Once back in Portland, we finished up cleaning my place and moving everything out. Then, to the most exciting part for me, eating at Boda! I was excited to go because it was great when I went with Stephanie a while ago. When I actually looked at the menu, I realized how much I wanted to try everything on their menu. I think we were successful in our choices though. Prepare yourselves for a list: Brussels sprouts, oysters, pork belly skewers, beef skewers, duck and their beef salad special.

The Brussels sprouts were absolutely amazing. I had heard good things about them, but they were indeed superb. I hope my parents figure out how to recreate it so I can have them at home. I am now stuffed like I haven’t been in weeks. I almost think I should convince my parents for round two but who knows when I will be hungry again.

9PM

El Rayo with the parents and Kirsten

Live Cuban music!

August202013

Day 93

Right now there is something crazy going on outside and I have no idea what it is. It sounds like thunder, but it’s definitely not raining, nor was rain in the forecast. It’s also been going on too long for it to be fireworks and I can’t see anything…but I’m too lazy to head out to look at what it is. I’m curious about it though and I’m wondering if I’ll ever find out.

Today was a pretty awesome day in terms of IYN. We had two great meetings, one with our evaluator and another with a woman for an organization for Welcoming America. Both gave us good ideas of what we can do next for the projects and future programs. Or I guess I should say Kirsten and Annie, since I’ll be leaving.

Our meeting with the Welcoming America woman was in Portsmouth, NH, where I have never been before. We went to this cool place called the Book and Bar, which is exactly what the name says. It was a super cool space and the perfect spot, I think, for writers. Where else can you sit and read books and drink beer or wine in the middle of the day? Well, a normal bar I guess, but it looked normal here.

Portsmouth not that far from Boston and I looked online at bus schedules so I think I want to do a weekend or day trip up there during fall break. It looks like a really cool town to explore and I’d like to hang out at the Book and Bar more. We were on a bit of schedule today so there was not time to linger. New Hampshire would be beautiful in the fall too, I bet.

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